As parents, we do everything we can to keep our children safe. We hold their hand crossing the road. We teach them not to talk to strangers. We do our best every day. But when it comes to online safety, it can be hard to know where to start. The good news is the steps you can take to keep your child safe online are the same as the ones you use to protect them offline.

Setting Parental Controls

Setting parental controls is a good start, by setting these it allows you to block access to inappropriate apps, sites and content. These controls aren’t too difficult to put in place, so you don’t need to be a tech wiz to keep your child safe.

If you’d like more support, the Internet Matters website will take you step by step through the process of setting up parental controls and privacy settings across all of the networks, gadgets, apps, and sites that your child uses, to help keep them safer online.

Visit Internet Matters

Internet safety out of the house

Parental controls and security settings are a useful tool for online safety at home, but some of these settings will be different when your child is out and about, for example, at a friend or relative’s house.

That’s why regular conversations are even more important than the controls you set up. Talking openly with your child will give them a better understanding of the risks, and more respect for the rules you put in place. The NSPCC website has great advice on how to talk to your child about online safety.

Ensure your child is watching age-appropriate content

Films, TV shows and video games all have age ratings so you can see if they’re suitable for your child. The PEGI website and the British Board of Film website have more information on this. They even let you check what’s in a specific game or film. You can also check reviews of games and films written with parents in mind at the common sense media website.

While age ratings are a handy guideline, you know your child best. If they want to watch something that you think is inappropriate, try talking to them and explaining why. Together, you can agree to review what they watch as they get older.

Online bullying

It’s important to talk to your children about online bullying, so they know they can come to you if anything upsets them, and they know how to behave online with their friends. You can find help and advice for supporting your child if they are experiencing online bullying on the NSPCC website.

Online sexual bullying

Online sexual bullying is any unwanted sexual comments or actions that happen online. It can include:

  • Editing photos to make them sexual
  • Bullying someone online because they’re different to others of the same gender
  • Posting photos of parts of other children’s bodies to embarrass them
  • Making 'jokes' about someone’s sexual orientation

This can be very hard for young people to deal with, especially when it’s other young people who are doing or saying these things. They may not even realise that what they’re seeing is not okay until it’s been happening for a while or until it happens to them or someone they know.

The Child net website has advice on how you can talk to your child about online sexual bullying. you can get further help from the NSPCC website.

Being messaged by strangers

Living in a digital world is fantastic for keeping in touch with friends and family, but it comes with risks too. Strangers online can have very bad intentions when getting in touch with children and young people. It could be to scam them, steal their identity, or even groom them.

Social media and messaging apps are one way for your child to be contacted, but they can also be contacted via online games. Make sure they know who they’re talking to online and that they know only to talk to people they know in the real world.

As they get older and meet new friends online, make sure they know not to give away too much information about themselves and keep their location services on social media and gaming apps switched off. If you’re not sure how to change location settings, the Internet matters website explains how to do this on different platforms and apps.

Help your child understand the difference between friendships developed in person, like at school, and ‘friendships’ made through online communities, like gaming communities or social media. And talk to them about not letting themselves be pressured into doing anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

This page from CEOP education on catfishing has some advice to help your kids spot the warning signs of a fake profile online.

Sharing intimate images online (sexting)

There are different reasons why young people might share intimate images online. It may be because they feel confident about their bodies, or because they trust the person they’re sending it to. It may also be because of peer pressure or bullying. Either way, once an image has been sent, it’s out of the sender’s control. It could be copied, sent to others, or even used to embarrass, shame or even manipulate them.

That’s why it’s important to talk to your child and make sure they understand the dangers of sending naked or semi naked pictures of themselves. You could suggest they downloading Childlines Ziplt App which helps them shut down requests for nude photos or videos. For more information on the App and dealing sexting visit Childline’s website.

Online grooming and child sexual abuse and exploitation

Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a scary thing to even think about. Unfortunately, new technologies make it easier for people with a sexual interest in children to contact a child directly and groom them online. Sometimes, people will even pretend to be someone much younger than they really are, even a child.

That’s why it's so very important to look out for your child when they’re online. If you notice behaviour changes – for example, if they become more secretive about their online activity or suddenly start avoiding their devices – you might want to ask them if anything is wrong or worrying them.

For more information and support on online grooming visit the NSPCC website.

Useful websites for support and advice on online safety




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